Then in 2009 I red an article and saw a video on the New York Times talking about this new weird barefoot running technique that it claimed is much more gental on the joints. It went on to discuss the mechanics of using your calf as the shock absorber by coming down on the mid-foot instead of on the heel and how this is the natural style of running for man and how heel striking is only made possible with big thick cushy modern shoes. In the video they even went for a run around central park with no shoes on.
This all seemed kinda wacky but the mechanics made sense to me and given the history of pain I had had I thought I'd give it a try. I walked out the front door barefoot onto the sidewalk of Seattle's Capitol Hill feeling like a complete nut job. When I started running I noticed immediately that heel striking simply is not an option when you're barefoot on concrete. I didn't have to think about changing my style; my body simply wan not going to allow me to heel strike without shoes. The first block just felt awkward, mostly due to self-consciousness from the bare feet, but by the second I was in pain; however it was just the scraping pain of my skin being rubbed off by the sidewalk; my knee was still feeling great. I was able to run two thirds of a mile with absolutely no knee pain. This was a first in over a decade.
The two days following that first run were painful in yet another way. My calves have never been so sore! This wasn't a normal nice feeling sore this was seriously intense to where I had real trouble getting up stairs to my bedroom.
A few days later I tried it again and made it a mile, and then two, before I knew it I was running three miles with absolutely no knee pain completely barefoot. The bloody feet had gotten tougher but it was still painful and I still felt self-conscious about running barefoot on the street.
I started reading more about barefoot running on the web and discovered that people were making DIY sandals modeled after sandals made by the Tarahumara of Mexico called the huarache. So of course I had to make some of my own. I ended up making two or three iterations but finally nailed down the design to something that was quite comfortable. The look like Jesus sandals so I called them my Jesus Joggers. I ended up logging nearly 200 miles on the sandals with runs up to 7 miles long. And fast. I was running faster than I had ever ran in the past with an average pace dipping down to 7:30. Somewhere in here I also read the book "Born to Run" which is all about ultra marathoners and barefoot running and the Tarahumara. At this point I was complete hooked.
Then the winter of 2011 hit and I started wearing socks with my sandals. But it's fricking cold and wet in Seattle. Finally I broke down and purchased the Merrell Trail Barefoot Running Shoes. These things have been great. I feel like I'm nearly barefoot but with just a little more protection from the elements. The only drawback that I've found is that the Merrells do allow me to lengthen my stride and as I get tired during a run my stride tends to lengthen. As that happens I can feel the knee pain start creeping in again.
|First iteration of Jesus Jogger|